Email Marketing

10 Irresistible Email Subject Lines That Attracts Customers (& Repels Freeloaders)

April 1, 2019

Writing that perfect email subject line is getting harder and harder.

People’s inboxes are full, attention spans are shrinking, and competition is at an all-time high.

It doesn’t matter if your email can convert like crazy when nobody opens it in the first place.

I think the great David Ogilvy sums it up best when he said:

“On the average, five times as many people read the headline as read the body copy. When you have written your headline, you have spent eighty cents out of your dollar.”

Here’s the thing.

I don’t like wasting time writing emails people will just ignore.

My gut tells me you don't too. 

If so, you’re in luck.

I’m going to give you a shortcut.

After sending millions of emails in the past year, I took 10 email subject lines with the highest open rates and hand them over to you on a silver platter.

And it won’t just be a simple list.

No. No No.

The secret sauce behind the subject ain’t just the words themselves but also the situation where they were used as well as a deeper understanding of why it worked.

So on top of the list, you’ll also get...

  • Context - Which situation I used them (i.e. launches, daily emails, affiliate promotions etc)
  • Analysis - Since there’s no surefire way to tell why a subject line works, here's my educated guess on why it did. 

Lastly, these email subject lines were sent to my main email list and not some small segmented list which tends to inflate the numbers.

Cool? Great!

Let’s start.


If I were to start my business all over again, I'd do this.

Open Rate: 24.08%

This is the opening email for a sequence I wrote promoting an affiliate product. My aim is to get as many targeted eyeballs to read this email hence I went for broad topic but one that still talks to my target market.

(SIDENOTE: Affiliate products are goods or services of other people that you offer for a commission)

Why I think it worked:
Topics for beginners are super relatable.

There’s a copywriting principle called “Enter the conversation that’s going on in their minds” which basically tells us to meet people where they’re at.

So for example you run a yoga newsletter, sure it’s cool to learn how to do a split but if your subscribers are stiff as a board and just bending over to reach their toes feels like a suicide mission, it won’t appeal to them.

A subject line like “Want to reach your toes when you stretch? Do this” would be infinitely more relatable ( believable) for someone just starting out.


The day I got eaten alive

Open Rate: 24.22%

This is another email promoting an affiliate product.

Why I think it worked:
It screams adventure!

For one, it’s a shocking title. You then add contrast on top of it, I mean, if you’ve been eaten alive, how come you’re alive to tell the tale?

There’s instant intrigued baked in the subject line.

It’s short but those six words creates an huge amount of tension that the reader can easily resolve by just opening the email. 


Gary Vaynerchuk

Email Subject Line Sample: Use Influencer name for a bump in your open rate

Open Rate: 24.31%

This is part of a pre-launch campaign ahead of the re-launching of my membership site Inbox Society.

SIDENOTE: Inbox Society is a online membership program that teaches the use of email marketing to harness the power of storytelling and copywriting to sell almost anything to anyone from the comforts of your own home.

Why I think it worked:
I noticed myself clicking on these kinds of email subject lines myself. When I see the name of a popular personality in my space, I tend to click.

The main reason? Mystery.

My thought process goes something like

Why is he on the subject line?”
"Did he interview the influencer?" 
"Was he the one interviewed?" 
"Are they collaborating? "
"Is somebody going to get bashed?"

I just need to know. My finders are just telling me “Just click the damn thing already!”

So that’s that.


(True story) From jeepney barker to buying a car every month

Open Rate: 24.45%

This is another email for an affiliate promotion.

Why I think it worked:
There’s two parts to this.

First, everybody loves a rags to riches story. Most of us see ourselves as underdogs as we pursue our goals. We often think that the odds are stacked against us and seeing someone who’s even in a more disadvantageous position gives us hope that “yes, I can freakin’ do it too!”

Second, buying a car every month is a BOLD claim. Something that people can easily dismiss. By having the word “(true story)” in front, it creates tension.

Making you think “Wait, is this really true?”



The best copywriting books in your hands (not available locally)

Open Rate: 24.61%

In this email, I was recommending a site that ships hard to find books for free.

Why I think it worked:
In my niche, email marketing, I noticed that people go bananas whenever someone would ask for recommendation on copywriting books on social media.

The comments would get flooded with suggestions.

Thus, I knew this email subject line will get attention.

Plus, the words “not available locally” sparks that innate desire to get something we don’t (or can’t) have.

Free download:
30 Attention-Grabbing Subject Lines That Makes Your Emails Noticed, Opened, and Read

Discover the 5 types of email subject lines your business needs (and when you should use them)


[Notice] Your Email Marketing Crash Course Access

Open Rate: 25.23%

This email was sent to subscribers who were having trouble accessing the course.

Why I think it worked:
Subscribers were supposed to get a new lesson daily via email.

However, the lessons suddenly stopped due to a technical issue. Once, it was resolved I included “[Notice]” in the subject line which implies both importance and urgency which were both appropriate in this situation.

The word “notice” has this “open this or else…” vibe to it which makes people open your email to avoid the pain of inaction. 


Buntis ka?

Email Subject Line - Buntis ka? / Are you pregnant?

Open Rate: 25.28%

This is a stand-alone email that was used to invite subscribers to an Ask Me Anything Session.

Why I think it worked:
Pregnancy can be a touchy subject.

The question implies that the pregnancy was a new discovery (perhaps even implies that it was hidden).

Now this subject line isn’t for the faint hearted.

Here’s where I got the idea.

I came across a poster from a church using “Buntis ka?” as its headline in an effort to call out young women who feel alone because of the unexpected pregnancy.

The body of the email explains how the church is using its understanding of its target market to create an eye-grabbing poster that speaks directly to its intended audience.

Even with a thorough explanation, I’ve gotten angry emails for its use.

I don’t take it personally. I doubt they even spent the time reading the body copy.

On the flip side, I had a subscriber who wrote back bewildered how I knew she was pregnant thinking I was only sending the email to her.

At the end of the day, it got eyeballs.

It also split my true fans from the lurkers.

Power Tip:
Use with caution. Only use this if you have ample experience or if your have a strong relationship with your audience (& can take the heat). Make sure you can pay off the curiosity right away. Justify the use of the subject line immediately to release the tension it can create. 


? Important! Php79,740 on the line

Open Rate: 25.96%

This is the second email of an affiliate sequence. It was intended to announce the early bird bonuses of the particular launch I’m promoting.

Why I think it worked:
Strategic use of emojis can add personality to your subject line not to mention help you stand out in the inbox.

In this case, I was relying on our natural instinct to survive. Hence I used a red dot (?) which implies importance, urgency, and danger. Channeling that fear to read my email which is informing them of the risks of losing a fortune.

And not just any fortune, specifically Php79,740 worth.

Adding specificity makes your claims more believable.

Think Php79,740 vs Php70,000+


Lastly, the pain of losing beats out the joy of victory. I made it a point to emphasize the risk of “losing” the bonus instead of promoting its benefit.


This affects you

Open Rate: 30.85%

This is a “blind” subject line. Meaning you don’t have an idea of what’s inside aside from the fact that it promises to be relevant to you. This allows a lot of flexibility.

In this particular situation, I used it to invite my audience to a webinar.

Why I think it worked:
Our favorite topic is “Me, Myself, and, I”. On the surface, the word “you” caters to our desire to learn more about ourselves.

However, I believe there’s an implicit promise that’s immediately made in their mind upon reading the subject line and that’s --- “This affects you (... and only you)”.

That’s because email is personal.

Sure we are aware that we’re part of a newsletter.

That’s the conscious part of our brain speaking.

But the immediate visceral reaction upon reading that feels like a message directly made for you --- no one else. 


Was it something I said?

Open Rate: 31.19%

This email comes at the tail end of a product launch sequence. It’s aim is to drive non-buyers to a survey asking them why they didn’t buy at this time.

Why I think it worked:
The line “Was it something I said?” sounds like you offended someone.

Situations that can become awkward.

That’s why we want to resolve it right away by saying --- Oh no, it’s just that…”

The equivalent of doing that online is to open the email (to know the context) and answer the survey (to give the explanation).

The reason I say this is because I’ve gotten comments of people giving me the “It’s not you, it’s me” response in the survey. Oddly enough, they’re the ones who feel guilty not buying your product and are even willing to leave a long response to “clear the air” and get back to your good graces (even if they weren’t ever on your bad side).

Power tip:
I’ve found best success with this on warm audience --- particularly at the end of launches.

In real life, we only use that line with people we know. Hence cold audiences may feel a little “weirded out” hearing it.

So take caution. 


You can use these email subject lines as is or as inspiration for coming up with yours.

You understand your audience so tweak them accordingly if you must. The key here is to understand the thinking behind the email and apply your intimate knowledge of your market to come up with something that “clicks”.

From our list above, what’s your favorite subject line? Do you have a subject line that worked wonders for you?

Share them in the comments section below.

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